Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hack of the Day: New Year Resolutions!

Love what you learn and learn what you love in 2016! This book helped me to spell it out for my kiddos. Before finishing up your lesson plans for SPRING (yay!) of 2016, remember to ask them what they want to learn about. What excited them about last semester? What were your highlights? Make sure to tell them.

My Joy Filled Life also wrote about this! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

First Things First - A Hack to Start the Day

Food Can be a motivator and it's called breakfast for a reason! If you're pushing food at your child before they have a chance to wipe sleep from their eyes, you may be doing it wrong. 
Proud 3 year old making his bed!
  When my kiddos wake up, this is the order of things: feed the dog, cat and chickens, make their beds, brush their teeth and THEN eat breakfast. After we clean up our own breakfast dishes, we head downstairs to do Mommy School. Before lunch, the kids get themselves dressed (including the 3 year old).  This system...
  1. Allows kids to know what to expect.
  2. Helps everyone feels productive about their day immediately
  3. Helps kids to form positive habits at a young age that will (hopefully) carry on through their day.
  4. Gives me a chance to have my coffee and wake up before I have to deal with everyone's needs!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Capsule Toyroom

You've heard of a capsule wardrobe, but if we apply the same theory to toys that we do to clothes, the results are toys that are enjoyable for the whole family and you'll feel good about letting them play for hours with these toys, which is what childhood is about - playing!  This system of toy organization combines the theories of Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying, Dr. Kim John Payne's Simplicity Parenting, and the Capusle Wardrobe concept.

The idea is to create an imagination-rich and stress-free environment for your child to play in. That means her options need to be limited to just a few choices at a time and she shouldn't feel burdened by tons of toys all around her. To do this, we'll sort through all the toys and remove . Remove the flashy toys your child played with a bit and then forgot about after that initial excitement. Let's get started. This process can take up to a week, but will likely at least take you one full day. Okay, ready? Go!!
  1. Gather ALL of the toys in your home. Puzzles, building toys, costumes. ALL OF THEM!  Now sort them using the following guidelines.
  2. Age Appropriate Toys. This is the easiest way to purge, it's a no-brainer. If a toy isn't age appropriate, it's time to release it. Also remove at this time any broken toys or toys that are missing any pieces or that are clearly just dollar store-type junk.
  3. Group the toys by their function. The following sorts of toys are worth keeping (or not).
    1. Building Toys (legos, blocks, wedgits)
    2. Dramatic Play (kitchen area, dress up, dolls and stuffed animals)
    3. Figurines (action figures, barbie, toy cars (big and small), trains)
    4. Puzzles and Sorting Items (Mr. Potato Head, puzzles with pieces)
    5. Board Games and Spelling/Math manipulatives (magnetic letters and numbers)
    6. Reaction (musical instruments, sorting cups or rings, oil and water bottles, science experiment items), 
    7. Outdoor toys (balls, bats, binoculars, bug jars, children's gardening tools)
  4. Consider how often the toy is used and loved. Some of these toys are clear keepers. Go ahead and put those in some sort of clear storage, but keep them in their categories.
  5. Remove any duplicate toys. Even having two ambulances that are slightly different is still considered a duplicate toy. If you're keeping duplicates to avoid conflict, remember a little conflict isn't all bad for your children and builds character once they learn how to share and cooperate with each other. 
  6. Choose classic shapes and patterns. Remember that you have to look at (and probably often clean up) your children's toys. They should bring joy for you to look at, as well as be educational and helpful  While some cuts and patterns of clothing go in and out of fashion, others are considered 'classic' because they do not date. Toy's are no different.
  7. Bring in the expert - your children. After the clutter has been removed (put all the garbage and give away in plastic bags now, before your child comes in.  Now ask them to pick up and handle each of the toys in each category. When they hold it, how do they feel? Excited? Scared? Frustrated? When they're done, ask which of those toys are their "Top 5". Keep those, but think hard about keeping the rest. 
  8. Create your toy library! Sort all of the toys in clear plastic bins, I would use 18 quart bins for this. 
  9. One toy at a time! And go!

Five Free Hacks To Start Now

  1. The four hour home school day. The right routine with a lot of love will put your homeschool on a fast track toward success. No matter what your routine entails, always begin and end your day with a sweet can-do attitude. This is my routine if you need a baseline for yours. 
  2. Fill drawers with ready-to-eat snacks. I'm all about independent kids. For me that begins with feeding themselves. I have two drawers filled with individually wrapped snacks they're allowed to serve themselves twice a day. Yes, this can be messy, but it's easier to clean up all at one time than to prepare every individual a snack and then clean up after them! (A great hack for nursing mamas)
  3. Insource. Do not underestimate child labor. Just kidding. But seriously. Include home-oriented tasks as part of the homeschool curriculum. Its a win-win.
  4. Stick to your plan. Children are more more willing to work with you if they know EXACTLY how the day will play out and what their expectations from you will be. 
  5. Don't get distracted. YOU! Yes, you! Okay, I mean me.  The 6 year old is busy with a project, your 4 year old is building, your 2 year old is coloring and your 6 month old is sleeping, BUT this is NOT the time to begin a new load of laundry. Stay focused on the kids. Remember how we're not doing every single job in your home anymore? If you get distracted the moment your child hits a bump or completes their task and you're not here, they'll be off getting distracted themselves. Show them you care and stay tuned in. If you're doing this right, your homeschool is only going to last a couple more hours anyway and you'll have all afternoon or evening to do chores.